Strangers and Coding – Can Rock Help?

A bit of a break from the LabVIEW technical content but hopefully something many of you may find interesting.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the process of writing software for someone. Both as someone that others look to and currently looking for outside assistance on some JavaScript code, it is undeniable that this is often a scary process for everyone involved. Can rock help?

Taking on or outsourcing a project involves large unknowns. Unknowns generally require trust in your partners but that has to be built first, it’s a chicken and egg situation.

I have recently become a big fan of listening to podcasts, one of my favourites is NPR’s TED radio hour. As someone who loves TED talks but never gets around to watching them it is a great way to consume them.

This week’s theme was all about playing games. The interesting section for me was the first about strangers.

Research shows that just putting two strangers in a room together, no tasks, just in each others presence, raises their stress levels.

In fact the study goes on to show that this stress means it is very hard to empathise with the other person. In a related experiment on pain, participants tended to believe their pain was worst than the strangers, even when inflicted in the same way (holding your hand in ice water, no developers were harmed in the making of this article!).

This reminded me immediately of the relationships in taking on a new project, everyone is on edge being forced to leap into the unknown with a stranger.

The solution? In this case it was shown that 15 minutes of playing rock band together eliminates this stress, causing participants to empathise with each other as much as a good friend.

So as part of our on-boarding process, bring your singing voice! Not really, but it has certainly set my mind to work on what we can do to remove the unknown and make the process easier for everyone involved.

8 Comments

  • Richard Thomas

    March 30, 2015

    I can see the look on a customer’s face now as I walk into a first meeting, set to impress, with my boombox and play 15 minutes of Sepultura’s Attitude to warm everybody up. It would certainly get the conversation flowing 🙂

    Nice thoughts James. It’s true that when you’re talking with the customer’s technical lead on a new project and they’re suspicious of you (just because you’re a stranger), it makes for tense discussions! Finding that common ground allows everyone to relax a little and that helps enormously. The usual preambles (handshake, smiles, how was the traffic for you, agreeing the weather’s bad for this time of year) can start that ball rolling but finding a true common empathy is a great foundation for good relations.

    So. How do we justify bringing a little rock music into the first meetings with customers?

    Reply
    • Yair

      March 31, 2015

      Richard, I’ll see your Sepultura and raise you some Gevolt – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i04pQR4ICPs

      Nothing like some Yiddish heavy metal to break the ice (or is it get you thrown out? I always confuse those two)…

      Reply
      • swatts

        March 31, 2015

        Now that’s improved my mood this morning, I’ll take your yiddish heavy metal and raise you Japanese Babymetal

        Reply
        • Yair

          March 31, 2015

          I don’t know Babymetal well. I only heard a bit and I remember liking a bit of it and not liking a lot of it. Maybe I’ll listen some more.

          Then again, I don’t really know Gevolt either. My own preference in this area is usually more towards prog rock and symphonic metal, but I have no objection to good heavy songs.

          And there’s always this – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dQw4w9WgXcQ

          Reply
          • swatts

            March 31, 2015

            I’m a fan of Takeshi Ueda who arranged that song rather than BabyMetal, it still makes me smile tho’. And I have to admit to seeing your link live (all Kudos lost…it was a support act to a comedian!)

  • Steve Watts

    March 30, 2015

    I suggest Simply The Best, and a bit of dry ice as you enter the meeting. A la David Brent

    Reply
  • swatts

    March 30, 2015

    I am currently listening to https://www.youtube.com/user/GotoConferences when I’m not listening to music. There’s some good stuff in them.

    Reply
  • Ian Bell

    March 31, 2015

    Use some Marillion to start the meeting. It’s bound to get some sort of reaction!

    You see it has it’s uses as an icebreaker in many situations

    Reply

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